REGULAR READERS of this column—and Jah bless all six of you—know that when I’m not sitting in my estate in the West Hills dictating this column to a bank of interns, I have a business that works in several arenas of the cannabis industry, with a focus on event production. Seventeen-year-old me is beyond stoked that I am able to say that, because—dude—that means I have a job throwing parties with weed. Dude. C’mon. Weed parties.
But hold your horses, little man with underwhelming success talking to girls that won’t get any better as you grow up. This year has thrown up some roadblocks, and it’s changed the landscape of events that once allowed us to sample cannabis and maybe get a nice gift bag to take home.
There are two government agencies responsible that you may send a lovely handwritten thank you note: the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI), and—for many, the equivalent of a silent movie villain twirling his mustache while sporting a black top hat and cape—the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).
ONI houses the Marijuana Policy Task Force, a group that collects all the fees the city charges cannabis businesses. (Full disclosure: In 2015, I was a citizen member of the task force, and testified earlier this year at a meeting on cannabis consumption events.) ONI even has its own cannabis enforcement agents, who enforce rules that prohibit events in Portland where admission is charged in exchange for attendees trying cannabis onsite or taking home samples.
But what if it’s, like, a private membership club? Or people just donate what they want at the door? Or they buy a T-shirt and the shirt comes with free admission to an event? Insert sad emoji face here, because that is what is known as “consideration,” and no matter how considerate that consideration may be, it’s not going to fly.
This means all cannabis events held in the city must be 100 percent absolutely free to the public. And if Kanye West has taught us anything, it’s that free-ninety-nine is a great price!
Except I can tell you from painful experience that producing these events are not cheap undertakings. Venues can run $5,000 or more, along with insurance, fire permits, porta-potty and sink rentals, printing, promotion, tables, chairs, and other furnishings, security, staffing, and a million small expenses that add up fast into a terrifying number. You can offset a portion of that by charging fees to vendors, or by trying to set up sponsorship packages. But cannabis is not yet an industry that can easily pay the level of sponsorship needed to make these events financially viable.
The OLCC isn’t helping either. (Because why start now?) Most cannabis cultivators are in the process of either changing their license from medical to recreational growing, or, if newly entering the market, applying directly to grow recreational marijuana. The OLCC shared new rules earlier this year that state, “‘Gifting’ of recreational marijuana by an individual or business is not allowed if there is financial consideration. Financial consideration is not allowed and is considered the same as selling marijuana when money, goods, or services are exchanged directly or indirectly for marijuana. Financial consideration includes: cover charges, admission, donations, tip jars, raffles, fundraiser events, purchase required, barter, or sales.”
As a cannabis consumer, what are your options? Within city limits, you simply won’t be seeing as many canna events, and those you do will most likely have some sort of RSVP component to them. And the cultivators that participate will decrease dramatically once the recreational licenses start getting issued.
Look, it’s just like beer: There’s a good reason the beer festivals that the city hosts nearly every damn weekend are totally free to the public, every time always, but that a certain growing group of brewers are no longer allowed to offer samples of their products at them, or at a grocery store. Instead, every drop must be sold through licensed OLCC stores and retailers. Because any other method of sampling and trying out the beer would be detrimental to the public good, right?
Right? Anyone? C’mon, guys, it makes perfect sense if you just don’t think about it.